Happy Sabbath Day! What’s on the menu? Probably not pork , since it’s never considered kosher – or is it? This week customers at Associated Supermarket in Sunnyside, Queens, were able to pick up cartloads of pork spare ribs, cutlets, and pork chops all stamped with the Yiddish “Sh’Chita Beit Yosef,” or “Kosher slaughtered” label. Israeli artist Oded Hirsch snapped photos and sent them to New Yorker staff writer Philip Gourevitch, who got down to business finding out what the deal was with this alleged Kosher pork.
“’What are you saying?’ [Associated Supermarket manager Aris] Duran asked. ‘Pork cannot be kosher.’ So I e-mailed him the photo. He called me right back, and said he was going to pull all the meat off the shelves. “It was a mistake,” he said, and a few seconds later he called back and left a message to say, ‘Thanks for alerting me.’”
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So what happened? Was it Kosher fraud gone comically awry or an innocent mistake? Gourevitch heard back from Rabbi Luzer Weiss, director of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Kosher Law Enforcement, on Friday. Rabbi Weiss noted that the problem was likely as simple as an incorrectly programmed label machine. “The machine was bought used and had been at the store only a few days,” said Weiss, who also noted that the machine’s new home Associated Supermarket sells no Kosher items and in fact specializes in pork. “From what was on the label most likely the machine came from a store that sold kosher.”
Gourevitch also spoke with Orthodox Union representative Howard Katzenstein who noted that, while mix-ups like these are rare, computer-generated label machines are nightmares waiting to happen. Though, of the offending pork chops, he added jokingly, “If the price is right, I say go with it, right?”
Check out the bevy of reader reactions to the New Yorker piece here.